Plant Clinic

Did I kill my Live oak?

 <span class="cutline_leadin">LIVE OAK:</span> This tree has some bare branches.
LIVE OAK: This tree has some bare branches.
A. Hunsberger / UF Miami-Dade Extension

Q: Approximately six weeks ago I planted a 12-foot tall Live oak tree on our swale. The leaves and branches all died. Should I prune the dead limbs back?

R.M, via e-mail

A: Live oaks are deciduous trees, even here in varying degrees. So, the branches may not be dead. The small branches and twigs will be flexible if still alive. If there are some dead branches, avoid pruning until all danger of cold weather is past and new growth has resumed.

During the dry season Live oaks lose some of their leaves and often those leaves will look blemished. After a cold snap, some oaks will drop leaves. But don’t worry. There is nothing wrong. New leaves will be appearing soon.

Some oaks will lose more leaves than others and some trees drop more leaves at one time than other oaks in the same landscape. This is mostly due to genetic and microclimate differences.

However, the leaf drop may be caused by allowing the rootball to dry out after transplanting. If the leaves completely dried out and stayed attached to the tree, that’s a bad sign. It indicates that the roots may be damaged beyond repair. After planting, the tree should have been watered at least every other day the first two months, then weekly until established. If there has been a heavy rain, you may be able to skip a watering or two. A tree that has a trunk diameter of less than two inches at chest height should be established within three to six months.

If the rootball did completely dry out, be careful not to overdo watering it. The damage is done. However, if the damage is not too extensive, the tree may survive. Only time will tell. If you don’t see new growth in a couple of months, the tree is most likely dead and should be replaced.

For additional information on a myriad of subjects, try the University of Florida/IFAS website or the UF/Miami-Dade County Extension website which hosts a wide range of Southeast Florida topics and information..

Insect Samples

Send undamaged (live or dead) insects in a crush-proof container such as a pill bottle or film canister with the top taped on. Mail them in a padded envelope or box with a brief note explaining where you found the insects.

Do not tape insects to paper or place them loose in envelopes. Insect fragments or crushed insect samples are almost impossible to identify.

Send them to the address of your county extension office, found in the blue pages in the phone book under county government.

Adrian Hunsberger is an entomologist/horticulturist with the UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension office. Write to Plant Clinic, 18710 SW 288th St., Homestead, FL 33030; e-mail

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